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Blackburn Rovers Vs. Chelsea: Preview

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Chelsea vs. Blackburn Rovers is always an interesting match, especially at Ewood Park. Last year the Blues went down early, equalised through a long ball from Petr Cech and then won late thanks to an absolutely brilliant cross by Yuri Zhirkov that was headed in by Branislav Ivanovic. That victory kept us in first place, well clear of whoever was in second place at the time (Arsenal, I think?). It would turn out to be the high point of the season - the Blues would then go on to be humbled at Anfield and never really recovered until the end of January, a tailspin lasting more than two months.

Compared to what Carlo Ancelotti had to endure with Chelsea, our current rough patch is pretty laughable. During the four-match slide, the Blues have held a lead in every game save against Queens Park Rangers (and at the risk of making excuses, I'm happy to declare that that one doesn't count). They've played reasonably well over that time too, looking particularly poor only in the first half against QPR and the second against Arsenal. But still, it's a concerning run of results and if it goes on for much longer we're going to have to look very hard at how to escape it.

You get the feeling that failing to win at Blackburn would be a fairly epic disaster for Andre Villas-Boas' young revolution. Despite Villas-Boas claiming Roman Abramovich has full confidence in him as a manager, a losing streak so early into his Chelsea career could spell big trouble. Fortunately, Rovers are a pretty golden opportunity for the Blues to escape their tailspin.

Blackburn's home record currently stands at one win and four losses, with a goal differential of -6. Overall, they have six points from thirty. They're a pretty bad team, and if we thought Villas-Boas was going through a rough patch things are pretty terrible for Steve Keen, who's getting flak for not magically transforming them into a competent side. When a team's most dangerous attacking threat is a centre back who's good in the air from set pieces, they're probably not too much to worry about. CareFree Chronicles has already had his say on Blackburn and their tactics, so I won't bother badly paraphasing him - just read this instead.

That leaves Chelsea, then. John Terry and Frank Lampard were rested for the midweek game, as were John Obi Mikel, Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge - all are virtually guaranteed starters here. You'd have to imagine that Fernando Torres will start in the centre with Didier Drogba serving the last game of his three-match ban, despite the Spaniard's indifferent display in Belgium on Tuesday (yes, he got no service, but that's not a particularly good excuse excuse for his poor movement). Ramires is a good bet for time too, mainly because Chelsea don't really have anyone to replace him with.

That leaves the main selection issues at the defence. Last year, Ancelotti went with Branislav Ivanovic over Jose Bosingwa at right back to give the Blues extra height in both boxes, and the ploy worked with the Serbian notching a late winner. This year, it's probably advisable for Villas-Boas to do the same. Sturridge will work just as well with Ivanovic in the back as he does Bosingwa and Ivanovic will be able to break up the long-ball threat that Blackburn provide. It remains unclear whether AVB will ever actually start Ivanovic at right back, however.

With Ashley Cole almost certain to start on the left (whether he deserves it or not is an interesting question), the last selection issue will be between David Luiz and Alex at fullback. Defensively, it's probably a coin flip between the two - Alex has been just as error-prone as his compatriot so far this season, and David Luiz offers far more on the attack. Unless he's feeling tired, I'd play the latter. Just don't let him take any penalties.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Ramires; Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge.

I'm not going to do any predictions until we start winning. Don't want to jinx things!

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